The Shocking Truth About Our Drinking Water

-I’m thirsty

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On March 22, 2017, during the observance of World Water Day, UNICEF reported that by 2040, one in four children worldwide will be living in areas with extreme limited water resources, a realization that has already affected many children living in Liberia.

One of the major challenges in communities that have no access to functioning water supplies and functioning sewage systems, is drinking from contaminated or poisoned (chlorine) drinking wells; something that is done unintentionally.

The majority of well or hand pump regulators do not know the right sanitation or measuring of substances and chemicals that are being placed in the drinking wells to purify water.

According to the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC), one of the chemicals that is used and is accessible in the market to clear the bacteria and germs caused by nature’s natural microbes is chlorine, a chemical which, in its natural form, is a greenish-yellow gas and has a strong smell that is used as bleach, oxidizing agent and to disinfect in water during purification.

Presently in Liberia and many parts of the world, chlorine is normally sold in small water bottles filled with its powder residue, and sometimes the poisonous gas liquid. It is sold as little as US$3 and without any questions from the consumer; they are told to drop it in their wells and to wait three days before drinking from them.

Too much use of chlorine has its effects, but this has never been an issue for the public, for as days go by, more and more people are smothering their water supplies with the poisonous chemical.

According to UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, during the observance of World Water Day, “water is elemental; without it, nothing can grow. But around the world, millions of children lack access to safe water, endangering their lives, undermining their health and jeopardizing their futures. This crisis will only grow unless we take collective action now.”

Meanwhile, a family in Caldwell recalls that during the Ebola period many women and children became ill and lost their lives from drinking from contaminated or ‘poisoned’ wells. In reality, those poisoning the wells were those who thought an added quantity of chlorine could keep their wells safe from the Ebola virus.

“People would drink a cup and start vomiting; and before two or three days, die from stomach challenges,” the family added.

Presently, children (like the one pictured above) drink directly from wells whose waters are not intended for direct consumption; and in some instances, skin conditions, stomach cramps and loss of appetite occur after a cup of water from such wells.

When asked if the drinking water has any signs of chemicals, the children replied that “the water is sweet.”

So what are the risks of using too much chlorine?

It is proven that when chlorine gas comes into contact with moist body tissues such as the eyes, throat, and lungs, an acid is produced that can damage these tissues and causes: blurred vision; burning pain, redness, and blisters on the skin if exposed to gas. Skin injuries similar to frostbites can occur if it is exposed to liquid chlorine; burning sensation in the nose, throat, and eyes; coughing; tightness of the chest; difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. These may appear immediately if high concentrations of chlorine gas are inhaled, or they may be delayed if low concentrations of chlorine gas are inhaled; fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) that may be delayed for a few hours; nausea and vomiting; watery eyes; and wheezing.

2 COMMENTS

  1. This article mischaracterizes chlorine as poison, when in fact it should be considered the opposite. The problem is chlorine, but widespread bacteriological contamination of Liberia’s existing shallow wells and the lack of either: a) piped (disinfected) water, or b) proper use of point-of-use chlorine disinfectants such as WaterGuard. Many of Liberia’s wells were installed as a temporary/emergency measure after the war and are subject to contamination from latrines and other forms of human or animal waste. In the U.S., piped drinking water disinfection with chlorine was among the most significant contributors to greatly improved public health over the past century. Due to its effectiveness and relatively low cost, chlorine is still used around the globe from the most developed countries to the least developed countries. While there may be some incorrect use of chlorine/bleach in Liberia, it is not the core problem and will be a key part of the solution.

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